Q uote: “Conflict is a part of life; wherever there are opinions, there are conflicting ones.”

Sheva and Chaya Leah are childhood friends and strong-minded 12th graders. Their friendship is deep and can sometimes be a bit stormy. One Shabbos afternoon, sitting around her kitchen table with a few of their peers, Chaya Leah scoffed at a comment Sheva made regarding her seminary of choice. When Sheva questioned her, Chaya Leah said something a bit harsh. Sheva was very taken aback and has been hurting since then. She feels misunderstood and belittled for her views.

When it comes to friendship, we know that it involves, by definition, interacting with others. Inevitably, differing behaviors and opinions, opposing choices and styles, all can create conflicts between friends. How can one deal effectively with conflicts that arise? Clearly, it’s tempting to wish away a problem; take your mind off it and it temporarily recedes and leaves you alone. But this solves nothing and the problem remains. Worse still, the lingering problem can give off “bad fumes” and poison a relationship. And, in addition, the friend one is trying to avoid confronting usually knows something bad is up anyway! Sulking and giving “the silent treatment” is equally poisonous and is sometimes seen by a friend as an aggressive act, much like declaring war. So, how can we address conflict in a friendship? And, more urgently, how can we avoid letting the conflict resolution create a bigger fight, as is sometimes the unpleasant outcome?

Here are two principles to get us going:

Deal with the problem, not the whole person.

Some detail or event created the problem, and sparked the conflict. Try to remember that you like the person, and dislike the problem. Maybe even say at the outset, “I want to discuss what’s upsetting me because I value our friendship. I don’t want us to be in a fight.” Now your intentions are out there clearly and your friend can feel reassured. The image this brings to mind is of you and your friend united against the conflict that made you upset, but not on opposing sides.

“Shira, can we talk about the set of notes that went missing this Monday?” versus “Shira, you’re always losing stuff I lend you. You don’t even seem to care where you leave my stuff. You’re so irresponsible! And now I’m missing my notes from this Monday!”

Stay in the present.

It is always advisable to stick to the problem in the moment and not go back to past history. If the plan was to discuss an action that hurt you today, resist the urge to bring up past offenses. Creating a “bouquet” of gathered-up complaints makes the conversation seem like an attack, and can cause your friend to either back off and want out, or to counterattack and try to hurt you.

“I didn’t know you were keeping track of every bad move I have ever made in my whole life and judging me. Sorry… who made you the queen of the world?” (Excerpted from Teen Pages, Issue 675)